14 April: Demographic Transformation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh: Causes, consequences and future prospects

Modern South Asia Seminar with Shapan Adnan, a member of the International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission. This month’s seminar is a cooperation between the Modern South Asia Seminar and the AMT Postcolonial Displacement project.

17 00 – 19 00 hrs

Conference room
Huizinga building

The talk will be followed by drinks.

The massive population displacements and migratory processes triggered by the Kaptai hydroelectricity project in the early 1960s mark the beginning of the large-scale demographic transformation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh. The loss of land through submergence resulted in thousands of its indigenous peoples (IP) – also termed Pahari or Hill peoples - being forced to become international refugees or internally displaced persons (IDP). These outcomes generated a chain reaction of destitution, poverty and resentment against the state, eventually leading to armed resistance.

It is in this backdrop that an even greater demographic disruption was orchestrated during 1980-85 in the form of state-sponsored transmigration of 3-400,000 Bengali settlers to the CHT, in parallel with forced eviction of the IP from their lands and settlements, leading to their exodus as international refugees or IDP. Such forced out-migration of the Hill peoples and the bringing in of non-Pahari migrants constituted complementary strands of a multi-pronged counter-insurgency strategy of balancing the weightage of ‘rebel Paharis’ with ‘loyal Bengali citizens’ in the ethno-demographic composition of the CHT. Even though a Peace Accord was signed between the government and insurgent forces in December 1997, the authorities have made no attempt since then to restrict or control Bengali in-migration, while trickles of cross-border out-migration by the Hill peoples have continued unabated. These complex migratory processes had far-reaching socio-economic, political and cultural consequences. In his talk, Dr. Adnan will discuss the ethno-demographic transformations in more detail. 

Shapan Adnan

Shapan Adnan has a BA (Honours) from the University of Sussex and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He is currently an independent academic living in the UK. He is an Associate of the Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme of the University of Oxford. He has formerly taught at the National University of Singapore as well as the Universities of Dhaka and Chittagong. Shapan Adnan is a member of the international advisory board of the Journal of Peasant Studies and the international Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission. The topics of his research and publications extend across political economy, sociology, anthropology and development.

Last Modified: 29-03-2016